Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years. Escalating unemployment coupled with the impending expiration of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) in 2010, will bring renewed attention to welfare reform. This Article examines the effects of President Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 and in particular, evaluates how social science interacted with politics to culminate in the enactment of the PRWORA. It explicates several social science theories regarding the effects of welfare on individual behavior and explores whether and how the predictions of these theories have born out since the enactment of PRWORA. I argue that the expressive message demanded by politicians and the American public in the 1990s – that all of those individuals who wish to work can obtain a job – predetermined which social science research findings were relied upon during the enactment of TANF. The expressive message of the booming 1990s is no longer salient in the current climate of recession and increasing job loss. The current recession, therefore, creates opportunities for social scientists and policy makers to advance a welfare reform agenda more closely aligned with the research and recommendations of social scientists.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jasmin_sethi/1/